Around 250 owners, organisers and hosts of the world’s greatest events gathered in Glasgow, Scotland at Host City 2023 under the theme “Driving and Reacting to Change”.
Artificial intelligence, climate change and Generation Z were among the concerns addressed by representatives of Paris 2024, Milano-Cortina 2026, LA28, Cirque de Soleil, FIFA and many more.
The 10th edition of Host City, the greatest meeting of cities and sports, business and cultural events, took place at the Technology & Innovation Centre on 20-21 November with the support of Global Presenting Partners and Hosts, Glasgow Life and EventScotland.
In her opening remarks, Susan Deighan, Chief Executive, Glasgow Life, said: “High profile events undoubtedly contribute to a city’s economy and identity and over the past two decades Glasgow has cemented its reputation as the perfect location for international events.
“Glasgow is a pioneer and an architect of its own future which has led the way in reacting to change.”
“Looking ahead, how will host cities respond to ensure that equality, diversity and inclusion are not just fashionable buzz words?
“We must commit to collectively making a genuine effort to drive the change that celebrates access for all.”
Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, VisitScotland, covered a range of topics in his opening remarks including governance, sustainability and the impact of technology.
“AI and other technologies are a having a transformative impact on events but the balance between automation and human interaction will be key considerations to understand and navigate going forward,” said Bush.
He also impressed on the audience both in his opening remarks and in the panel discussion on the strategic development of destinations through sport and events, the challenge around funding and the importance of demonstrating the impact of events through robust measurement.
“We are all very privileged to work in this sector but as I have said previously, I would encourage all of you to continue to extoll the values and benefits of the sector to ensure that our funding partners whoever they may be, governments, commercial or the paying spectator continue to support and be excited by events!” he said.
David De Behr, Head of Sales, Major Events, Aggreko, said the events industry had been on a “rollercoaster” over the past four years.
“We went from 2019 where the world was exploding with events to the darkest period ever where we had to react to just survive. And here we are at the end of 2023 – a year that has been massive. It has been bigger than 2019 and it has been non-stop. More and more sporting events, bigger music festivals and larger conferences.
“I am confident that our industry will drive and react.”
There were a total of 60 speakers across 20 panels and presentations addressing the most pressing concerns in the industry today.
Vikram Philip Rajkumar, Account Director at Satisfi Labs, outlined the impact of AI across sports, entertainment and tourism.
“AI is not coming – it is here,” said Rajkumar.
“Whether you integrate it or not, your fans and consumers are going to bring it to your doorstep and demand those services.”
Petra Sörling, IOC Member and International Table Tennis Federation President and Damien Combredet-Blassel, Director of Impact & Heritage of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee participated on a panel focusing on the strategic development of destinations through sport and events.
Combredet-Blassel underlined the efforts of Paris 2024 to get people active in France with an initiative that promotes 30 minutes of exercise a day, which drew praise from Sörling.
“We need to activate people, so what Paris is doing is brilliant,” said Sörling.
“If people are active, they are more keen to watch sport and stay active which is good for the city.”
Hilary Ash, Vice President of Games Delivery & Infrastructure at LA28 Olympic & Paralympic Games, was also among the speakers.
She gave an overview of the use of existing venues and the Games Plan including the sports programme and venue mapping.
“We are at a really exciting pivot,” said Ash, following the confirmation that cricket, squash, lacrosse, flag football and baseball/softball will be the additional sports at LA28.
“We are in the operational delivery phase and going into a greater level of detail now we have a formal masterplan.”
Giulio Alessandrini, Director of Venues & Infrastructure, Fondazione Milano Cortina 2026 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, outlined the overlay infrastructure plans and the challenges facing the event, including global warming that threatens the future of winter sport.
“Climate change is a hot topic and the Winter Olympics rely on the climate,” said Alessandrini.
“We don’t know how much snow will be there in 2026 but we are trying to plan as much as possible.
“We are improving snow-making technologies.”
Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society highlighted the disparity in investment between major short-term sporting events, which move around the world, and resident arts festivals.
“I feel that we host the cultural Olympics in Edinburgh,” said McCarthy.
Ben Avison, Conference Director at Host City, said: “We’re delighted to be back to pre-pandemic attendance levels for Host City.
“We are clearly in a different world in terms of the pressure on public sector expenditure, which impacts heavily on our events industry, so we are extremely pleased to have such good numbers at Host City in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It has been great to hear how the industry is driving change in areas including policy objectives, fan engagement and digital twins for event planning, but in other areas such as artificial intelligence and climate change we are still reacting to change.”